As much as I wanted to read Amanda Bouchet‘s Breath of Fire sooner, I put it off in order to catch up on a few other books. It was hard—really hard. A Promise of Fire was something that was so unexpectedly good that I bought Breath of Fire immediately. A part of me is glad that I waited two weeks to read it after receiving it because I honestly don’t know how I am going to wait ten months for the final book in the series, Heart on Fire.
Bouchet has created a series that is a great representation of the fantasy romance genre. I wish other books were more like this—Bouchet manages to blend genres seamlessly; there’s strong world-building, unique characters, and magical, otherworldly action, with plenty of romance in the background. It’s absolutely wonderful and I can’t get enough of it.
This review contains spoilers and quotes from the book
Breath of Fire starts off immediately after the events of A Promise of Fire. Instead of having a chapter or two dedicated to catching the reader up on past events like most novels do, Bouchet immediately begins the story. Instead, small pieces of information are handed to the reader to catch them up on past events in places that make sense—character dialogue, plans for the future, confrontation. It’s a great touch that starts the novel off on the right foot.
Immediately we are thrown into one of the anticipated confrontations between Griffin and Cat about her true identity. If it wasn’t clear from the hints in A Promise of Fire—Cat is the lost Princess of Fisa. I’m actually glad that Griffin finally caught on. Starting off with suspense, Bouchet catches the reader in a whirlwind of emotion. Following typical romance tropes, there’s a fight about why Cat has been lying the entire time as if Griffin wouldn’t eventually fit all of Cat’s stories about her past together at some point. Even though you can see the fight coming, it doesn’t make it any easier to read. Being invested in the characters, it’s easy to sympathize with both parties— Griffin’s anger and sense of betrayal; Cat’s desperation, fear, and vulnerability. Unlike cliché romance plot lines, however, this fight actually make sense.
A Promise of Fire makes it very clear that Cat has never known true love, outside of her sister and best friend as a child, Eleni. She has never had affection. Instead, she has been broken, beaten and betrayed by her mother who only seeks to use her for her power as the Kingmaker. All her life she has been hunted for her powers—always in hiding, Cat has grown to be wary of everything and everyone. Fearful of relationships, Cat had trouble trusting Griffin. In fact, their relationship grows slowly over the course of the first novel, full of tension that is even frustrating for the reader, let alone Griffin.
When Cat and Griffin finally get together—Cat’s worries increase tenfold. No longer worried about herself—she fears what will happen if her mother comes after Griffin and his family. Her new family. Aware of the fact that she needs to tell Griffin her past, but terrified that he will leave her if she does—Cat’s internal struggles are heartbreaking, to say the least. It’s so easy to sympathize with her character, which makes the initial fight even harder. When she is finally ready to surrender herself over to her feelings of love and affection for Griffin, the tiny romance trope appears, threatening to break everything down. The tough, badass attitude disappears when she thinks that Griffin is going to leave her—it’s devastating, even if the reader already knows it’s not going to last and that Cat and Griffin are meant to be together.
You’re the shield, and I’m the sword. Together, we’ll forge a new world.
While the start of Breath of Fire is a little abrupt, beginning with confrontation that immediately sends the reader into a spiral of emotion, Bouchet knows how to capture the reader and pull them into her world. Through one fight, Bouchet sets the tone for the novel. Full of action, emotion, and new beginnings, Breath of Fire is a delightful read that keeps you on edge the entire time.
The two things that I loved about A Promise of Fire fuse together to make this book wonderful. While the first novel covers Cat’s journey with and acceptance of Griffin, Breath of Fire is just the beginning of the adventure that we have all been waiting for. On the brink of war, Cat and Griffin begin their journey that will unify the realms. Full of puzzles and action, Breath of Fire immerses the reader in the world of the Gods.
An adventure that starts out with the intention of protecting the borders of Sinta (Griffin’s realm) ends up being a complicated, complex and dangerous beginning of the war between realms. Instead of seeing glimpses of the Gods and Cat’s origins—Bouchet provides us with the full story.
On the action filled journey we are introduced to new magical creatures and riddles, puzzles and challenges from new gods, including the appearance of Persephone, Atalanta, and Artemis. Instead of every fight being a relatively easy clash of swords, as was the case in A Promise of Fire, we are introduced to long and difficult battles. Tense and full of emotion, each challenge offers a new look at the world of the Gods. It’s a new tactic that enhances the already solid foundation that the Gods already hold in Bouchet’s world-building.
There are moments when you wonder if everyone will make it out alive. Even with Cat’s god touched-powers and the strength of four warriors, there’s only so much that can be done in a fight against strong, powerful magicians and magical creatures. Glimpses of death enhance the elements of mythology that color Bouchet’s world and provide insight into the character’s innermost thoughts and desires. At the heart of it all, we learn why Griffin and Cat are perfect for each other and why they are destined, despite the odds against them, to forge a new world.
A heart of iron means I do not break. You cannot break me. I may not be strongest, or the fastest, or the best, but I will fight. I will fight for everyone I love. I will fight for myself. You can’t beat me until I’m bloody. You can break my bones. You can tear my skin. You can burn me. You can crush me until I can’t breathe, and you’re sure I’m dead, and then do you know what? … I will get up, and I will fight some more.
The man I love endures. He is me and I am him. We are forged of the same passion and violence, and we have hearts of iron.
— Excerpt taken from Amanda Bouchet’s Breath of Fire
Behind all of the puzzles, action, and fighting, romance and relationships linger in the background. New details about the characters unfold and you find yourself wanting to know more about them. We finally get to learn more about Griffin’s past—not only is he a battle hardened warrior, but he is kind, intelligent and passionate. He is a warrior and a craftsman—the small details into his past were wonderful. I want to know more about him and his family. Although it wouldn’t fit in with the story, it would be great to see how events unfold from his point of view.
In addition to learning a bit more about Griffin, we are given a few interesting details about his brother Carver, and his sister, Jocasta. Furthermore, we learn a bit more about Beta Team (Griffin’s closest supporters and warriors— Carver, Kato, and Flynn). There’s also a surprise appearance by Cat’s younger sister, Ianthe. At this rate, I am really looking forward to seeing what the final novel in the series, Heart on Fire, has in store. While I love Cat, I would love to get to know some of the other prominent characters in the series better—hopefully, the small bits of the past that are given in Breath of Fire are just a taste of what’s to come.
While A Promise of Fire was full of romantic tension and frustration that culminates in a passionate relationship between Griffin and Cat, Breath of Fire takes the romance one step further. There are genuine affection, lust, and desire that color the pages of the novel to bring the relationship to life. If you like romance novels with extremely detailed scenes, this is definitely a series to watch out for. Instead of skimming over the details and skipping the sex altogether, Bouchet knows how to write romance well, and does it better than most romance novels do.
As far as sequels go, Breath of Fire exceeded my exceptions. Amanda Bouchet took her series a step further by expanding upon the world-building and plot to present readers with an action-packed fantasy romance novel that is hard to put down. I loved every moment of this novel. From the challenges and tension to uncovering secrets and mysteries, and even watching the heart-wrenching battles unfold, Breath of Fire has many unexpected twists and turns that will have you longing to get your hands on the final book in the series.